The article “Market Economy and the Revival of Religions,” written by Fenggang Yang, in the volume Chinese Religious Life (Oxford University Press, 2011), describes the economic and religious changes in China in the last few decades and analyzes the interactions between religion and economy. China’s transition towards a market economy has generated greater spiritual needs and desires among individuals. The globalizing market has created greater social space for religious practices, and religious organizations and individuals have creatively provided religious services in spite of various constraints. The final part of the article, through a discussion of the Weberian theme of religious ethics and the spirit of capitalism, considers the debates on the degree to which China’s Confucian heritage or religious culture positively or negatively affects the development of capitalism in Chinese societies.
Yang Fenggang: The market economy and religious revival
After the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), the Reform and Open-up policies ushered in market economy which changed the social structure of China completely, giving people more space of economic and spiritual freedom. Rules and laws were still officially written and announced, but in practice, the control of religion was loosened up. Fenggang Yang, the author of the above article, explains the interrelationship of market economy and spiritual freedom, as well as the new sense of belonging of Chinese people. Please watch.
Stephan Feuchtwang: Signs of religious revival
Stephan Feuchtwang, an authority on popular religion in China, confirms the religious revival in China: “But there is a religious revival. That’s for sure all over mainland China. Sometimes it takes the form of seeking other gods than Mao.” People lost their spiritual leader Chairman Mao after he passed away in 1976, and since then religion revives. The revival sometimes takes the form of “culture,” sometimes “history,” or sometimes even “tourism.” These are all signs of religious revival.
Stephan Feuchtwang: Religion and tourism
Market economy allows people to trade and run business with less restrictions imposed by the state. And religious tourism is one form of business that flourishes in times of reform and open-up in China, where villagers turn their temples into tourist spots, charging entrance fee and selling souvenirs. We see temples and monasteries thrive again now after years of dormant; however, behind the phenomenon, can we assert that such revival is religious in nature? Is it “culture,” “history,” or “tourism”? Is it easy to tell the difference? Let’s see how Stephen Feuchtwang explains.
Thomas DuBois: Promoting religion on the internet
The Coca Cola campaign goes, “if we can have everyone in China drink one can of Coca Cola, we would make so much money.” And the religious groups inside and outside China, as Thomas DuBois explains, also follow the same business mindset. They all want to share a pie of the magnificent religious market in China, and that, “internet” is just the right tool of reaching customers as many as possible. While market economy fuels the revival of religions, it influences religions as well, and that’s why more and more temples are now operating like business enterprise.